Sleepy Nights

One dog beneath my feet, another to my right on the couch. The third is loudly drinking water from the container in the kitchen. He had been moving discreetly about, his nails lacking on the linoleum. I’ve just updated my OS with a new app that alters the lighting of the device, the intent to aid in my sleep.

Not that my sleep has been suffering. I’ve just been mindful of my sleep quality since returning from a cruise nearly two weeks ago.

The ship voyage gave me ample time to read, to rest and to recover; to eat good, healthy food; to use the gym on a daily basis, increasing my activity levels. Upon returning from this trip I’ve been intent on maintaining that quality of life.

There have been some challenges. One is in the preparation of my own food. Another has been work, which isn’t consistent in location. Over the past two weeks, I’ve been at no less than three locations, one of which was nearly five hours away. Making that drive twice left me drained and uncomfortable.

Still another has been my rehearsal schedule, very nearly every night. I’ve added another production to the two I already have scheduled, so that I’ll be quite busy now until the middle of May.

Handling the stress of an ever-growing schedule isn’t always the most sustainable activity. However I do believe that it is doable, and that I have been doing it.

Full nights of sleep are the most enjoyable aspect, and finding ways to hack my sleep have become my nighttime ritual. I’ve dimmed or covered as many of the LEDs that I could in my room. The one I haven’t brought myself to put any tape over is on the smoke detector on the ceiling. Though, I am able to turn my head away from it in bed.

Several apps come in handy, providing soundscapes for my sleep. Waking rested in the morning, I am able to write and prepare for work efficiently. No dragging ass to the kitchen for that first, and second cup of coffee.

I’m writing by candlelight, reading some as well. While flipping through the book of Sontag essays, I had the sudden urge to write. Reading good writing makes me want to write.

And sitting in twilit lighting makes me ready to sleep.


It’s all really a question

If I was to create my perfect society, it would be an imperfect society. Perfection is an ideal, not an actual. We come to these matters uniquely, and no two created societies would be identical. Millions upon millions of different ideas, goals, aspirations, longings, and we expect that a society that comprises all of these disparate personalities to function ideally – obviously we will fail.

But we can learn to fail better, as Pema Chödrön says. Learn from mistakes, lean in to the uncomfortable issues.

We criticize our elected officials for their inability to pass substantive legislation. Yet, as our population grows and the added opinions that growth equals means that keeping a population satisfied with job performance is impossible. Someone is going to be unhappy.

Now, at the point that government became a business we began losing ground as a Country. Members of Congress who find their retirement solution among the House or the Senate. Rich, old, white men who are out of touch with the heartbeat of America may not be the best ones to be leading the United States into the 21st Century. There are of course exceptions, and there are women, and racially diverse members of both parties in some form of leadership – though it’s not the norm.

In the House, there are 89 women and 348 men serving. Of the 437 members of the House of Representatives, 338 are white, roughly 3 out of 4. The other hundred or so are composed of Black, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American/Native Alaskan.

The Senate, and its one hundred members, is 22% female, just slightly better than the House’s 21.9% female. Women at 22, men at 78. Racially, the Senate is 92% white. That means there are 8 who identify as racially diverse in the Senate.

I don’t want to say that the majority of Americans would rather vote a white man into Congress than a woman or someone of color. But, and this seems like a pretty big but, somehow we’re allowing the nation’s Capital to be whitewashed.

Then there are all these stories saying that this is the most racially diverse Congress we’ve had: The Hill, Pew Research Center & Politifact. So, good on us.

Is it enough? That’s one of the millions of questions that makes America what it is. We are a Country of questions:

What are the unalienable rights?
What makes me an American?
What is the American dream?
Does that dream still exist?
Who really looks like me? Is it that we’re the same color on the outside? That we believe in the same God, deity, or scientific reason? Is it that we live in the same zip code, work in the same building, or have the same job title?
Who do want to lead us?

Though the answers to these questions are few and far between, that we get to ask them is, in my opinion, what makes us American.

Another Op’nin’, Another Show

Here we are again, opening night. I missed you after the last production ended abruptly just weeks from performances. This one, though, is here and ready.

I’ve been wondering lately, are we ready? Am I ready? There’s this rush that comes from having an audience. It’s all happening so soon.

Only, not soon. This show has been in rehearsals for nearly four months. Too long. A fellow actor and I were discussing it, and believe that some of the cast may be suffering from burn-out. It’s hard to keep the needed energy for that long.

But, an audience tonight will let us know how we’ve done.

And then, it’ll be off to the next one.

Surviving an emotional breakdown

It’s been over two years since my engagement ended in unusual fashion. In hindsight, it seems unlikely that the relationship would have lasted, and surprisingly that it did last as long as it had. Roughly three years. Our twelve-year age difference (me being the elder) was likely to difficult to maintain.

Still, the resulting emotional disturbances I face were unexpected and traumatic. And it was only with the most tenuous strings that I was able to hold on to a semblance of life.

In the coming months I’ll write pretty openly about it, and some of the other tragedies that arose previously, including the death of my grandmother which resulted from an automobile collision, the onset of what was diagnosed as an autoimmune disease, and a period of incarceration (though I don’t necessarily view it as tragic).

The difficulty I’ve faced in writing on here has been wanting to be more open, yet still feeling the need to perpetuate the use of a facade. A social mask, pretending to be more well-adjusted, or acceptable, then perhaps I am. But I’m getting nowhere doing that.

That’s my commitment. That I’ll be open and honest on here, as I try to do in everyday life.

Guns vs. Mental Health

Dammit. It’s happened again. This time just an hour South of where I live.

All I want to say is this. The purpose of a gun is the taking of life.

The purpose of a gun is the taking of life.

That is why guns were invented. To increase the efficiency and ability to take life. Threats of gun violence, yes, may have a deterrent effect on some criminals. That is why officers carry guns.

But the sole purpose of a firearm is to end a life.

Unless that is clearly understood by all parties, there can be little effectiveness in a gun control debate.

Some people collect guns. Some people collect coins. The primary purpose of a coin is to be a form currency. Not a collectible.

Guns are first and foremost a method of ending life.

Are mental health concerns an issue that we should address? Yes, absolutely. The way we treat the least in our society shows us who we are as a society. But when someone uses a rifle in a mass shooting – a mass murder – the issue isn’t mental health. It’s that the person knew the purpose of that weapon, and made use of it.

I’ve been told that if guns were illegal, people would kill with knives. Or axes. Perhaps that is also true.

But the primary purpose of a knife is not to kill. The primary purpose of an axe is not to kill (unless you’re a tree).

The primary purpose of a gun. Is. To. Kill.

January Reading List 2018

January 2017

Books Bought

  • Later Essays – Susan Sontag
  • Urban Monk – Pedram Shojai

Books Read

  • Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo
  • Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
  • The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden
  • The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit – Michael Finkel
  • The Art of Stopping Time – Pedram Shojai (Unfinished)
  • Urban Monk – Pedram Shojai
  • Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill (Unfinished)
  • The Wasteland and Other Poems – T.S. Eliot (Unfinished)

In trying to get back to monthly updates on reading, I’ve found myself doing extensive personal development of which whittling down my reading list was a considerable part of. This month I finished three novels, put a dent in nonfiction selections, and opened up February for diving in to the writing of Sontag.

In usual fashion, my reading selections unveiled themselves to me an air of synchronicity, and I started the audio book of Shadow and Bone at the same time I opened the hardcover edition of Bear and the Nightingale. Both take place in Russia, though Shadow’s depiction of the place is significantly altered to create a fantastical tone. Though in both, drinking kvas and wearing a kaftan is commonplace.

I discovered in my listening that Shadow was a book for young adults, whereas Bear needn’t have been; likely had not intended to be at all. Both carried strong female protagonists, each with a destiny that they neither understood nor could retreat from.

The formal antagonist of Shadow was introduced in a clandestine manner, while Bear’s antagonist, aptly called the Bear (or, Medved), was an elemental force, (What is this word? Not personified, but giving living characteristics to an unloving thing?) Anthropomorphized into the one-eyed terror that fed off fear and worship.

I enjoy retreats into the fantastical, and oftentimes gain some insight into more mundane matters simply by the exploits and endeavors of characters deftly written. Something about both called out my more naturalistic side, and in The Stranger in the Woods, I was introduced to a man named Christopher Night, who spent twenty-seven years in the Maine woods in solitude. Called a hermit, in those twenty-seven years he had said that he had contact with only one other person, and that was a brief exchange where Hello was the only word spoken. (Though one other encounter where no words were spoken was also mentioned.)

This man had returned to nature. Regrettably, for those twenty-seven years he had been burgling the local summer camp and other vacation cabins for food and supplies, but that he remained in solitude, fighting cold winters and possible discovery, is a feat of remarkable will. In this book, and also the works of Pedram Shojai, I felt my desire to escape growing to overwhelming levels.

Urban Monk spoke to my esoteric longing, and I found renewed vigor in the search of both spirituality and in reclaiming my health. Over the past year I’ve mentioned my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis several times, but haven’t gone into much detail. That will be changing in the coming year.

The rationale behind this blog was to have a space to air my thoughts, which had taken on a darkness as I progressed through a dark night of the soul. In favor of keeping a facade I neglected posting some of the darker inspirations, which I suppose defeated the purpose. Shojai presented wonderful information on using traditional Taoist techniques in modernity to live a balanced lifestyle. One of the elements that I needed the most work on was this blog, and what I was using it for, other than forum for my reading lists.

He presents Art of Stopping Time as a Gong, or a practice to be continued on. It’s 100 individual activities to be done, one day at a time, in an effort to becoming more inhabited in your body and in your environment, and if you don’t like it, give you the impetus to change it. Much of my personal development has also been focused on this.

Book purchases started being rather light. I’ve known for some time that I needed to focus on paying down debt, and I’ll further discuss that in later posts. This month I picked up Urban Monk after hearing Shojai’s interview on Bulletproof Radio. Also I was somehow led to the essays of Sontag, and I decided to give it a whirl. This is the Library of America publication, and I have a few of these for other authors as well (Kerouac’s poems, Lincoln’s speeches, etc.).

The unfinished books of the month will likely carry over to next month, or at least I’ll think about reopening them. I hadn’t gotten very far into any of those.

Until next time!

Reading for that last quarter…

October-December 2017

Books Bought:

  • Autumn – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer
  • Through the Shadowlands – Julie Rehmeyer
  • Reincarnation Blues – Michael Poore
  • Fantasy: The Best of the Year 2008 – Rich Horton (Editor)
  • The Marching Dead – Lee Battersby
  • Freedom – Jonathan Franzen

(These are the books that I know I bought. There were others. Yes, there were indeed others. But, enough of that for now,)

Books Read:

  • Autumn – Karl Ove Knausgaard (unfinished)
  • Once Upon a Mattress – Book by Jay Thompson, Marshall Barer and Dean Fuller; Music by Mary Rodgers & Lyrics by Marshall Barer
  • Thanks for the Trouble – Tommy Wallach
  • Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy – Nicholas Reynolds (unfinished)
  • Infinity: 1 (TPB)- Hickman, Spencer & Latour (unfinished)
  • It – Stephen King
  • Scott Pilgrim Vol 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life – Bryan Lee O’Malley

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a reading list. My writing over the last few months has been sporadic at best. I’ve addressed that in the last few entries, and will continue to try and resume my regular writing habits. Until then…

Finally I finished It. It was a worthy opponent, and took some considerable time to make it all the way through. But vanquish that tome I did, and I’m happy to say that I was typically engrossed in the work. I can vividly remember watching the 90s movie with Tim Curry (among other notables), and did greatly enjoy the film adaptation last year. So in reading the source material, I could appreciate the references that I got and marvel at what was not included in either production.

Admittedly, I hadn’t read much by King over the years. DesperationSalem’s Lot, and Cycle of the Werewolf that I know of. So adding It to my small list of completed titles was rewarding. The only other actual book that I finished in these last three months was Thanks for the Trouble. It was a library selection audio book, and I wanted something to listen to as I was driving back and forth to Georgia.

It kept me entertained, and guessing. It turned out to be a young adult’s book, but I’ve enjoyed many of those over the years. t held a common theme that I find in many books: that is, two people unique in their own ways will somehow discover each other. It had that theme as well, only two became seven.

I did some shopping during this time, and the books listed here are incomplete. I know I made purchases at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and, unapologetically, I whored my way through the remainder bins at stores. Fantasy, Marching Dead, and Freedom were all picked up for pennies on the dollar of the sticker price. Art of Asking was at a discount as well.

Let me move on to Autumn, because dear lord. When I first learned of Ove Knausgaard, it was shortly after his autobiography was published. He was doing an interview on NPR, and they were speaking of the scope of his work.

Then I heard about his new collection coming out, basically essays on everyday topics. One topic, one essay. Some examples are apples, twilight, plastic bags, and piss. The hook that got me was his reading of “Thermos Flasks”, of which I exert here:

The steel Thermos looks like it was designed to be fired like a projectile and is not dissimilar in shape to an artillery shell or a shell casing. It is very beautiful.

Something about both the flow of his words and his simplistic straight-forward style grabbed me and couldn’t let me go. So I grabbed a copy of Autumn, but made little headway.

Once Upon a Mattress, a musical that I was in rehearsals for, was unexpectedly cancelled. I did read the script, however, so I add that into my count for the three months. I’d add Evita, a show I’m currently rehearsing, however it is nearly all singing, and I haven’t read through the lyrics.

There were some graphic novels, Marvel’s Infinity and One Press’s Scott Pilgrim. I had recently rewatched Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and decided to check out the material. In Volume 1, the stylization and content was pretty much the same.

Additionally, I’d pick up a book, read a bit, then stop. Those last three months were just hectic enough that I couldn’t quite make headway. The early part of 2018 has already shown an improvement, but more on that next month.